Why We Can Recover
Because our cover copy says, “And now the Renaissance,” that puts us in that category of believers in the city’s future. There could be pitfalls, we know: the best and the brightest being stifled from assuming leadership, greed, internal fighting. Assuming those concerns can be overcome, here are six reasons why New Orleans can experience a renaissance:
1. Geo-economic importance. Building a city in the big bend of the Mississippi River was not a careless decision made by the founders. With lakes on either side and a river connecting to the Gulf of Mexico and hence the world, a city was inevitable at that location. Thomas Jefferson knew this when he wrote that there was only one spot on the continent whose possessor would be his nation’s natural enemy, and that was the Isle d’Orleans. As a destination, as a cultural output, as a melting pot, as a strategically significant port, New Orleans is too important not to make great again.
2. Uncle Sam. Any city in any other country experiencing as severe a tragedy would have a hard time recovering. New Orleans is blessed to be part of the richest, most powerful nation in the world. And while we may quibble about the early handling of the hurricane’s aftermath, the fact is that we could not recover without national help. That may hurt some provincial pride, but sometimes it is good to have big brother not only watching but reaching for his wallet.
3. Lessons learned. Just as Mardi Gras has made the New Orleans Police Department the best in the world at crowd control, our disaster will make us experts at facing future storms. We will, one day, have superior levees, homes built to more rigid codes and people who are well-drilled at what to do when a tempest is in the gulf. If we are smart, and there is no reason why we cannot be, we can learn to live with hurricanes.
4. A city of locals. Any city would experience some loss of population after undergoing such a beating, but New Orleans, more than most places, is a city of natives. Many people here have deep-reaching roots and family connections. The bind to return is strong.
5. Where’s the dark age? For there to be a renaissance in the classical sense, it must be preceded by a dark age. But in the immediate pre-Katrina days, the city was experiencing a boomlet. Tourism was doing well. The port was thriving. During the week before the storm, the city received good news about the federal government reversing its decision on military-base closures, and Donald Trump announced he was going to build an office tower Downtown. Our dark age began with Katrina, but that is a relatively short period and was due to nature and not to local lethargy.
Skill and leadership will determine how quickly the local renaissance takes hold. For whatever it takes, we’re ready to do our part. Let the future begin.